Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Beating Chicago's Youth to Death

The local media, and as a result of the posting of a murder video on the Internet, I suspect much of the country, is abuzz about the death of another young man in Chicago. Derrion Albert was beaten with boards and kicked to death by a group of depraived fellow students.  I guess the school uniforms everyone was wearing weren't as affective as school administrators hoped in keeping the peace. For the record, I have not seen, nor will I watch the video. Seeing a screen capture photo in print, splashed across the local papers, was sickening enough. That will teach the victim to refuse gang affiliation. But what will it teach others?

If you're in one of the gangs, you'll think twice about seeking a way out. If you are a young person trying to resist gangs, you realize that there really isn't any place you are safe. Derrion Albert was clubbed and kicked to death in the street, by his school. You'll also realize that the Chicago Police first responders are a little slow to step in when they are so greatly outnumbered by a blood thirsty mob. You realize that all the prayer vigils are street theater, and praying is an obscenity when subsitituted for meaningful action. All the passion and chanting about "We're taking back our communities!" and "The violence must stop!" is vulgar exhibitionism for the media. The clergy, politicians, so-called community leaders who take to the streets with bullhorns as well as the media people who cover it are supreme hypocrites. The kids already know better than to trust any of them.

What do the mothers of violence victims learn? They are as helpless as they have always told themselves they are. Next week, Derrion Albert will be replaced in the news by another murder or two and then their mothers will talk about what a good child she raised, and how she could never have imagined this happening to her baby, despite the culture of violence that is all around on a daily basis. The fathers? They threw their children away shortly after conceiving the hopeless bastards, so they belong back under the rock where they reside. What does the community learn? The beat goes on. The ministers and the newscasters have fodder for Sunday's sermon and the next talk show segment. In both case, it should help revenues.

The solution isn't more speeches, more pulpit pounding, or pleas for standing up to the violence. Men, who fathered these trouble makers, or other men from the community have to step in, using whatever means necessary, to forge one-to-one relationships with these young men. Admittedly, it won't be done with a Coke and smile. It will take extraordinary effort, using unorthodox methods.

Maybe it's too late for the current generation of animals that prey on one another. But somewhere, there is a boy and perhaps a girl who is still a step away from the gang influence and can be influenced by a caring, engaged, and fully present father figure.

That's it folks. Education, jobs, housing and all the other conditions that affect young people, lack the power of one good man in the life of a child. I've met lots of poor people, lots of underemployed, lots of uneducated, and even a couple of homeless people who who turned out to be rather remarkable people because there was a man in their life on a daily basis.

At what point do we recognize that lack of responsible fathers is the root problem? The rampant butchering of young people in the streets of Chicago is a direct result of irresponsible parenting -- women who lack character and self esteem as they crank out babies without the ability or resources to raise children, and fathers whose lost interest in the mother and the consequences of their actions the minute the sex was over. Many of these women have babies fathered by different men. Many of these men have fathered children by numerous women. As a society, we have to begin to get in the faces of men and women who inflict this reckless behavior on us.

40% of all children in Illinois live in a household with a male figure living there. 35% of ALL children born in Illinois have no father listed on their birth certificate. Who teaches young men how to be a man? Who teaches young people how men act responsibily toward women? Everytime I hear a women claim that she is both mother and father to her children I want to vomit. You may be a success as your child's mother, but you are a miserable failure at being their father. Until, and if we one day have a fully androgenous society, males and females have markedly different influences.  Without their mother, or a woman of equal influence in their lives, my children would be at signficant disadvantage in the world. I can see evidence that I make an equal and entirely different impact in their lives. Every child deserves, and I would go so far as to say, requires a male and a female roll model in their life.

Same-sex relationships are the business of the participants. But suggesting that having "two mothers" or "two fathers" somehow compensates for the lack of a male and a female roll model sounds cute, but is dangerously flawed in communities as unstable as Chicago's ghetto.  

Until women stop having babies they can't raise without a man, until men of the community claim young people as a personal life-long responsibility, and the community as a whole are shamed enough, the slaughter will remain constant. Doubt it? Ask yourself how long the public will express its rage over Albert's death. Then ask yourself if there is any end in sight to the slaughter in Chicago streets and elsewhere.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

5-Hour Energy

It isn't often that I see an add I admire, but 5-Hour Energy has one. How refreshing to see an ad that skips the hype, the breathless announcer, phoney actor portrayed situations, to give us straight talk. This ad tells me what's in the product (all natural ingedients, even using a mug to depict the amount of caffinne in one bottle, which they claim is equal to a cup of coffee), and what's not in the product.

I love the fact that they urge you to try a half bottle of the product, to see how it affects you, and urge you to decide then, if the product is right for you.

I am not presenting this post as an endorsement of the product. However, I can say I used 5-Hour Energy, pretty much the way the maker suggested. Last winter, I was outside Dayton, Ohio conducting a client workshop on brand strategy. Because the client wanted to conserve time for their people, we consolidated two days of content into one long day. The session started at 7:30 am and wrapped up around 6:15 PM. I was on my feet and presenting/facilitating almost without stop for the entire time. At the end of the session, I was exhausted. I still faced a more than four-hour drive back home to get a few hours sleep before rising again at 4:00 am to catch an early flight out of O'Hare to be with another client. Even with the time zone benefit of picking up and hour, I didn't have much time to rest.

Winter darkness had descended and snow started to fall as I got to the parking lot. Although I'd never tried the product before, I decided to see if 5-Hour Energy really worked. Wanting to be extra careful, and not being a regular coffee drinker, I chose to take a sip that amounted to a little less than half the bottle. Within the first hour of the drive, the snow was coming fast and furious. But I found I was feeling refreshed and alert. I wasn't experiencing the "buzz" I was expecting from the caffeine -- just a natural sharpness. I didn't even need another sip.

Despite a pretty awful winter storm, my little five-speed sports car held the road well, and I got home safe and sound. I went straight to bed and found I had no trouble getting right to sleep. I awoke fairly exhausted, but on time, to learn the storm, which dropped over a foot of snow on Indiana, had subsided. Illinois (and O'Hare) were untouched by the storm so my flight got out on time, with me aboard.

It's important that I remain on top of my game when conducting workshops, speaking engagements, and facilitating events for clients. I can't afford to be distracted, or even slightly out of sorts. If 5-Hour Energy had even the slightest negative effect on me, that would have been the first and last time I used it. Now, I carry a bottle of 5-Hour Energy with me to all my speaking engagements, presentations, and workshops. In the past eight months, I have used it one other time in the middle of a two-day seminar that called for me to do two ten-hour sessions. Again, I took a small sip, and felt no side effects.

I tell you of my personal experience not to promote the product, but rather to reinforce the manufacturer's decision to encourage people to learn what they are taking, and to take it with caution so they can gauge their own tolerance and the usefulness of the product.

Responsible advertising works. I applaud the makers of 5-Hour Energy for taking such a responsible approach and avoiding the current trend in advertising to over promise, be overly clever, or go for some quirky gimmick to attempt to attain work-of-mouth.

Remember Clara Peller and "Where's the beef?" It had everyone talking in the 80's about Wendy's ads and created a phenomenon of its own. The next pertinent questions should have been "Where's the Wendy's?" The ad campaign got the nation talking, but did little to boost sales relative to the increased ad budget, simply because Wendy's real estate strategy was to build stores in less than desirable locations. As clever as the campaign was, people weren't willing to go out of their way to find a Wendy's. At one point, JC Penny's considered acquiring Wendy's as part of its diversification strategy. The retail giant walked away after taking a look at Wendy's books, seeing the campaign created a lot of PR, but not nearly the level of sales people were claiming.

Kudos to the makers of 5-Hour Energy and the advertising people involved for having faith in their product and the ability of the buying public to decide.